“There’s not much you can teach them,” Shaw coach Corrine Moffat said. “You can’t show them that competition aspect of a game. They don’t really know how to respond when the ball comes back over because it never does. I know (Frank) Sandomenico (Spanish Springs High coach) has taken them to a couple of tournaments and they’ve just frozen up when the ball comes back or when they face a team that can play. It’s not worth it almost but I know the girls love it and you can get a lot of things done in practice, but it’s just not the same as a game.”
The Washoe County School District started volleyball as an athletic middle school program for girls about 10 years ago. For a decade, each school got a 10-to-12 game schedule under its belt each spring. However, due to cuts in the WCSD’s athletic budget, the middle school season was cut in half. Now, middle school programs only play six games, about half of the district’s middle school.
Laura Gingrich, a coach at Mendive, had similar sentiments as Moffat in regards to the shortened season.
“We just miss out on developing their volleyball skills and the game play,” Gingrich said. “We don’t get a chance to play all of the middle schools, which we really enjoy. There’s not a lot of time so we just focus on all of the basics of volleyball. We practice a lot of passing, hitting, setting, serving and teaching rotations. We don’t really have any plays or anything. We only focus on ball skills. We do what we can.”
While the month and a half long season gives the coaches little time to hone the skills of their teams, it is the level of competition that stands out the most in the six games.
“It’s just not fair for the schools that we’re playing or for our school,” Moffat said. “It’s not fair when you take into consideration the schools that tend to play club and play outside the season. The level of competition and the balance isn’t fair to those other schools. That’s been the biggest difference.
“The competition is just killing us period. It’s not fair to other schools who this is the first time they’re on the court all year and our girls have done camps and played club and also played at school. It just doesn’t seem fair.”
It is that disparity between competition and the deficiency in game action that has put a burden on the season.
“I think that they get some good practices in obviously, I just think it’s tough because they only get to play one game a week,” Reed volleyball coach Kristen Flagvedt said. “That’s hard because you practice and scrimmage a lot, but then actually playing other teams is hard to really realize where you’re at competitively because they just don’t have that game action.
“When you’re practicing, you want to make everything as game-like as possible, but it’s a completely different situation when you change the faces on the other side of the court. You get used to how your own team plays and certain people always hitting to the same areas. So obviously when you’re playing somebody else, you’re not as familiar with them and with a lower amount of games, that can really hurt. I think they’re losing out on some of the mental aspects of being in a game.”
With local teams closing at their seasons with a final match today, many of the girls wish they could extend the schedule. The Mendive volleyball team gave a resounding ‘Way longer!’ in response to if they wanted a longer season and the squad at Shaw felt the same way.
“They wish they could play more games,” Moffat said. “They’re out here and they’re having fun. They love volleyball and they’re learning the game and that’s what middle school should be about. I just don’t think 12 games is too much to ask. It’s hard when it’s just practice, practice, practice. It’s just a short season for the girls and they wish it was longer. They want to keep playing. This is the first time a lot of them have played and they’re having fun with it. They’re finally starting to grasp the game and are starting to have fun and the season is over.”
Regardless, the fact that the girls are still out there learning the game is a good thing according to Flagvedt.
“I think every single time that they’re getting on the court whether in practice or games, they’re getting touches in,” Flagvedt said. “They’re able to work on their technique which is really good for them. I still think more games would be better. Six weeks and getting six games in, that’s better than not touching a volleyball at all.”